In an age when we were promised flying cars and self-disposing trash bins, it comes as no surprise that the technology of Virtual Reality surpasses the safety concerns of a hovering free-flying vehicle. But what’s more, is virtual reality sparking a reputation in the medical community as a treatment for acute and (sometimes) chronic pain. There are several questions that come to surface when the idea of using an HMD (head mounted device) such as an HTC Vive would re-“vive” somebody from the painstaking agony, leftovers from a torrential car accident. But the healthcare industry is looking into every facet of this technology to produce better results from chronic pain relief in addition to an alternative of combating the opioid crisis we face today.
Virtual Reality has been available in the medical community as a way of pain relief for the past two years with much thanks to Dr. Diane Gromala, PhD as she is the Director of the Pain Studies Lab and Chronic Pain Institute in Michigan. Dr. Gromala has attended conference after conference touting the beneficial uses of virtual reality in the pain management setting and it’s finally starting to catch on and bring aboard many new researchers.
Though researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly how this technology works in alleviating pain in a scientific explanation, there are some pretty easy to understand parameters for its success. One being the fact that VR content is used as a distraction. Being fully immersed into a different dimension, a whole new world practically—the mind and the central nervous system is able to refocus on the experience at hand instead of the throbbing excuse for nonchalant foul language and a need to chuck items across the room because “it” hurts so bad. Other theories suggest that VR might affect the “gating” system of how pain is transmitted to the brain and processed by the brain. Some have proposed that VR can help interfere with how pain is processed in the brain and/or central nervous system.
Additionally, it has been noted several times that if the availability of virtual reality could be more accessible to patients by 2018, the number of actual prescriptions for narcotic pain killers would decrease dramatically. Wouldn’t that make the DEA happy?… All the while bringing virtual reality to light in the mainstream of life more readily available and useful to those in society who don’t partake in complex gaming.